Zagreb, 27 May 2022 (Hina/MIA) — Due to the war in Ukraine, Western Balkan countries seek accelerated EU accession, but Brussels officials say there is no political will among the 27 member states for their accession and that their entering too quickly makes no sense.
At an Adriatic-Ionian region forum held in Tirana last week, ten countries signed a declaration calling on the EU to step up the journey of the Western Balkan countries as their accession would be an investment in a stable, strong and united Europe.
EU enlargement is a policy which has always exported peace and stability to all countries where it happened, Bosnian Deputy Foreign Minister Josip Brkic said, adding that the Russian aggression on Ukraine will show how important it is for the enlargement to include Southeast Europe.
Bosnia and Herzegovina applied for membership more than six years ago and hopes to get candidate status by June 30. Brkic said candidate status was a political decision.
North Macedonia and Albania, which are candidates, hoped accession negotiations would be opened in March 2020, but Bulgaria blocked them due to a historical and language dispute with North Macedonia.
The EU grouped the two countries together in their membership applications, so now Albania cannot proceed either. Its Deputy Prime Minister Arben Amedaj said at the forum that such obstacles made no sense.
Montenegro has opened all negotiation chapters. Its Foreign Minister Jovana Marovic said those relating to the environment and the rule of law were the most challenging.
Serbia has not imposed sanctions on Russia but did adopt the joint declaration in Tirana, although its first article says that the invasion of Ukraine is an illegal and unjustified aggression.
In order to equate its stand with those of the member states and accession candidates, Serbia stated its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
According to speculation on the fringes of the forum, Western Balkan countries and Ukraine might join the EU together in 2027, but a Commission official working with the candidate states dismissed this option.
Entering too soon makes no sense. The countries would not be prepared to draw money from the funds as they first have to set up the necessary structure, he said on condition of anonymity.
But the problem is first and foremost political. The fundamental EU treaties would have to be changed for this many countries to enter at once, and some member states are opposed to that, he added.
Last week in Sarajevo, European Council President Charles Michel mentioned the idea of a European geopolitical community. Non-member states would be gradually included in certain sectors together with the member states after meeting the criteria, without waiting for full membership.
The idea of a European political community was mentioned earlier by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Bosnian Deputy Foreign Minister Brkic said that for all Southeast European countries, the only guarantee of stability and political and economic prosperity was full membership, “as pledged 19 years ago in Thessaloniki.”
Western Balkan countries cooperate with EU member states in the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region and the Strategy for the Danube Region, which includes Ukraine and Moldova.
Croatian Foreign Ministry state secretary Andreja Metelko-Zgombic said it was important to make progress since criteria had already been met. “This is why we believe that Albania and North Macedonia deserve that we open negotiations with them as soon as possible.”